I owe Mike Schaffer, who runs #SportsPRChat on Twitter, a big thanks. I began participating in the chats last week, and not only are the they a great forum to connect with other sports and PR professionals, but they’re also a great source of blog ideas! With that said, another great topic was brought up last week, whether or not the NBA, fans and media are making too big a deal of the Washington Wizards Gilbert Arenas bringing a gun into the locker room.
For those living under a rock, Arenas pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge for bringing an unregistered gun into the Washington Wizards locker room. Since the initial charge, Arenas has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA, been dropped by Adidas and most likely will lose the remaining $80 million he’s still owed by the Wizards.
So, between a potential short jail stint, losing $147,208 every time the Wizards step on the court and getting killed in the media and court of public opinion, is Arenas paying too much of a price, especially considering the gun wasn’t loaded and it seemed to be more of a joke than anything else?
I say absolutely not! As someone that spent over four years working in an NBA locker room almost daily, I can attest that the phrase “the locker room is a sacred place” is accurate. What some don’t always realize is that in professional sports it’s not just the players and coaches on the inside. There’s media, team PR, marketing and community relations staff, equipment staff and trainers as well as ball boys who often times are high school kids or younger.
The Arenas situation has me wondering, maybe I’ve been in a locker room that had guns inside. It’s definitely a possibility, and I can tell you I would have been very uncomfortable had I known at the time. The ball boy thing makes this especially bad in my opinion though.
During the course of a game night it’s not uncommon for a player to have a ball boy go into his personal locker. Usually it’s something like getting money for a post-game food run. But regardless of the reason, it could have been a young ball boy that found the gun Arenas’ locker! Loaded or not, the possibility of bad outcomes are endless, and Arenas definitely broke a sacred trust.
From my personal and PR perspective, the NBA, media and sponsors are handling this situation just fine. That’s not to say Arenas doesn’t deserve a second chance, but David Stern bringing down the hammer shows media, team personnel and Arenas’ peers they will be safe in the locker room. It shows fans and sponsors the NBA is taking this issue extremely seriously.
So kudos to Stern, the Wizards and media who are holding Arenas accountable. Here’s to also hoping Arenas has learned a lesson and is able to resurrect his career.
I’m not interested in getting into how Mark McGwire handled the steroids issue, and his revelation that he did indeed use PED’s, we all know this has been a complete disaster for Big Mac. He lied in front of congress and he’s basically been a pariah ever since. Now he’s returning to baseball as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach and was almost forced to admit his wrong doings, and even in doing so, is saying steroids did not help him hit homeruns.
I do think an interesting question is how McGwire’s admission affects the Baseball Hall of Fame. At some point there will be steroid users recognized in the Hall of Fame, and someone will be the first to get in. But who that player will be is up for debate.
Shortly after McGwire’s admission I participated in #SportsPRChat, a chat session on Twitter run by Mike Schaffer (@MikeSchaffer) Director of Social Media at Brotman-Winter Fried Communications and author of The Buzz by Mike Schaffer. During Monday’s chat I had a discussion with Matt LaCasse (@MattLaCasse) about who the first steroid user in the Baseball Hall of Fame will be?
LaCasse feels McGwire will make that claim, due to being likable, finally coming clean and that being “the face” of the steroid era makes him the right candidate. He might be right, McGwire certainly has time on his side as he’s eligible (he has seven years left on the ballot) and now has a day-to-day job in baseball where he can mend fences with sportswriters, the ones who actually do the voting. But, I’m not so sure “the face” of the steroid era being the first in the Hall of Fame is such a good thing for baseball.
I argued that from a PR perspective baseball would be better off with someone like Andy Pettitte. Pettitte seems to have created the blueprint for getting past the steroid issue. When baseball’s Mitchell Report outed him as an offender, Pettitte immediately faced the music by holding a press conference.
To this day he remains a respected player and citizen in the game. I don’t recall steroids being mentioned once during his two World Series starts in 2009. In contrast, we’ve seen guys like McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deny their use of PED’s for years, and as a result be banished from the game for the most part.
A player like Pettitte going in first would minimize the negative PR at the time of his induction, and minimize the negative press when his peers finally enter. Yes, there would still be plenty of steroid stories when McGwire, Bonds, Clemens etc. go in, but it would definitely be tempered a bit with an admitted user already in. A strike against Pettitte is that he hasn’t retired yet, so time is not on his side, as we have to wait at least six years before he’s eligible.
No matter how it plays out, I think it’s an interesting question. So, who do you think will be the first steroid user inducted into the Hall of Fame and who would be best for baseball?
We’ve had a lot of focus lately on the PR side the last few posts, so with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I though we’d swing back to the straight sports side of things. Thanksgiving Day is pretty much strictly turkey and NFL, but the rest of the weekend has plenty of other options to keep you on the couch and out of the malls. To go along with a full slate of NFL games on Turkey Day, we have College Baskeball FeastWeek, big rivalry games in college football and to wrap up the sports weekend a marquee Monday Night Football match-up.
As usual the NFL kicks things off on Thursday afternoon. We have Green Bay at Detroit, Oakland at Dallas and the nightcap with the Giants traveling to Denver on the NFL network. Not the greatest lineup, but hey, its tradition and we love it.
FeastWeek in college basketball is also quickly becoming a tradition. The weekend includes a host of tournaments across the country with some of the top teams in college basketball getting early season tests. The lineup includes the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals and finals featuring Duke and UConn, the 76 Classic featuring Butler, West Virginia and Minnesota and the Old Spice Classic featuring Michigan, Xavier and Marquette.
The weekends slate of college football games includes some of the top teams in the country looking to avoid the late season slip-up against their main rivals. The top games include #1 Florida hosting Florida State, #2 Alabama heading to Auburn, #9 Pittsburgh traveling down Rt.70 to take on West Virginia and a nice mid-major match-up between #19 BYU and #21 Utah.
Last but not least we have a huge Monday Night Football game when the New England Patriots, the last team to undefeated during the regular season, travels to New Orleans to face the Saints, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.
Think you can keep up with that schedule while the rest of the suckers fight the crowds at the mall? So all I want to know now is, which Thanksgiving Weekend sports are you most excited to watch?
I know what you’re thinking, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it actually make a sound? Well, apparently there is someone out there that actually watches the Los Angeles Clippers play basketball, and he’s not happy with the Clippers broadcasting duo of Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith.
Arya Towfighi, a Clippers season-ticket holder of Iranian decent, was offended over an exchange the duo had when the Clippers visited the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday. The exchange came towards the end of the game when Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian-born player in the NBA, entered the game. According to the L.A. Times, Lawler and Smith had the following exchange.
Smith: Look who’s in
Lawler: Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?
Smith: He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA. (Smith pronounced Iranian as “Eye-ranian,” a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)
Lawler: There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA. (repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.)
Smith: He’s the only one.
Lawler: He’s from Iran?
Smith: I guess so.”
Lawler: That Iran?
Lawler: The real Iran?
Lawler: Wow. Haddadi that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.
Smith: You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?
Smith: If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.
Lawler: Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.
Smith: Especially the post players.
Lawler: I don’t know about their guards.
Not a shining moment from Lawler and Smith, no question about that. But according to the L.A. Times article, Towfighi’s e-mail was the only complaint received by Fox Sports Prime Ticket. I know, I know, there’s a chance that was 100% of the viewing audience. As a result, the station suspended Lawler and Smith from calling the Clippers next game last Friday against the Denver Nuggets.
The suspension resulted in multiple stories from the L.A. Times, a headline on espn.com and articles from virtually every other major sports outlet. It appears Fox Sports Prime Ticket drew far greater attention for the suspension than the actual comments made by Lawler and Smith.
Lawler is one of the most respected play-by-play men in the NBA and hasn’t missed a broadcast in 25 years. That doesn’t excuse the comments, but let’s also keep in mind that there was only that one complaint logged. Maybe an in-person apology to Towfighi and an on-air mention might have served the purpose without drawing the extra negative attention.
Keeping in mind that harsh punishments are often expected from offensive comments, my question to PR people and sports fans is. Should organizations be looking to minimize greater negative publicity from the punishment when disciplining broadcasters or company spokespeople for offensive public comments?
Update: Brian Cuban, brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has a slightly different take on this issue on his blog The Cuban Revolution.
One of my favorite PR/Social Media blogs is LAF, penned by PR Pro Lauren Fernandez. She has some amazing insight into the world of PR and Social Media, and her most recent post “What’s In Your PR Handbag/Briefcase” is no different. In the post, Fernandez lists three must-haves for every PR person’s handbag or briefcase.
What really stood out to me was that her must-haves were ordinary, and I mean that in a good way. They were simple items, but they were items you’ll be glad to have on-hand and kick yourself if you don’t.
After reading the post and some of the comments left by readers, it got me thinking. PR is PR, but there are differences depending on the industry, especially in the sports and/or entertainment world. So, I decided I wanted to make a quick list of a few items that will score points for the sports PR person.
Three Items the Sports PR Person Should Always Have on Hand
1. Sharpie – Of course, being at an event with an athlete means autograph seekers, but surprisingly, most of them don’t come armed with their own sharpie. Turning down a little kid with a card or ball in hand is not the position you want your athlete to be in. Yes, they’ll look bad, but you know what? It’s your fault. Best move is to always have 3-5 Sharpies in your pocket or bag (the person doing the signing will definitely give a few away without realizing it). Disclaimer: Also be prepared to turn the autograph seekers away when it’s become too much for the athlete, that’s ok too.
2. Water – Having water on hand seems like a minute detail, but it can help keep an athlete comfortable, and in turn engaged, when you have them doing a press conference followed by one-on-one’s with TV stations, columnists, radio stations and beat writers. Is it a huge deal not to have a bottle handy? Probably not. But, it’s a little thing that can help build/strengthen a relationship when you hand over a bottle without even being asked.
3. Media Guide – This definitely applies more to the sports PR person working directly for a team, especially if it’s post-game or a press conference to announce a new player or coach. Nothing is worse, for you or the writer, when they need stats ASAP to meet a deadline, and you don’t have them handy. Sounds archaic in this day and age of instant information, but believe it or not, a lot of sports writers still prefer an actual media guide to minimizing browsers while trying to look up stats and finish a story.
Seems pretty basic, but these items will show you’re on your game. So, what do you like to have handy that is vital for a PR Pro in the sports world?